Join The Centre’s Jennifer Breakspear and Little Sister’s bookstore owner Jim Deva today, Sunday, October 12, at the foot of Davie at 1pm for a community demonstration in honour of Jordan Smith, survivor of the latest gay-bashing in the West End.
Join Hands For Justice – A Joyful Celebration of Community
Rally On Sunday, October 12, 1pm
Foot of Davie Street at English Bay Park
According to the WestEnder’s Jackie Wong: “Members, friends and family of the LGBT community are asked to gather at Davie and Denman Streets at 1 p.m. The assembly will march peacefully up Davie to Hornby hand in hand, where Smith was attacked. “Let it be known that these streets belong to all of us, and we’re safe to walk down these streets holding hands,” Breakspear says.
“A survey of online comments written in response to news articles about the September 27 attack on 27-year-old gay man Jordan Smith shows that prejudice toward homosexuals still persists in the Lower Mainland, despite the popular notion that Vancouver is an inclusive, tolerant city.
Sean Bickerton, an NPA city council candidate, recalls being assaulted by two off-duty club bouncers 25 years ago in the Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot at Davie and Thurlow.
“The only thing that saved my life was that a good samaritan drove his van up onto the sidewalk and interrupted them,” he recalls. “This [Jordan Smith] attack confirms the necessity of the Social Justice 12 curriculum to help combat the epidemic of children being taught to hate.”
Social Justice 12 includes discussion of injustices faced by individuals, particularly as they pertain to sexual orientation. As of the start of this school year, the course is conspicuously absent from Abbotsford school curricula.
“I know that there are still people who are not wholly comfortable with seeing visual representations of same-sex couples,” says Jennifer Breakspear, executive director of the Centre, a GLBT drop-in space in the Davie Village. “Something as beautiful and as harmless as two people holding hands is precisely that: beautiful. That it would evoke anything other than a smile in someone that saw it saddens me.”
But for Jordan Smith, the consequence of being spotted holding hands with another man on Davie Street resulted in him getting punched so hard that his jaw was broken in three places and is now wired shut for six weeks. LGBT community advocates say it’s hardly an isolated incident.
As hate-motivated assaults are notoriously under-reported to police, Breakspear and other staff at the Centre are working with the Vancouver Police Department to organize a series of community forums that aim to get at the root of why gay-bashing often fails to reach the ears of police and the public.
Breakspear hopes the sessions will open up communication between queer communities and police, who have had historically adversarial relationships. “What the VPD would like to [communicate] is, things aren’t like that anymore,” he says. “In many urban cities, there were [historically] difficult relationships between the queer community and the police. That dates back to when our activities were considered illegal and under constant scrutiny.”
Breakspear says police don’t have sufficient data on the frequency of hate- motivated incidents directed at queer individuals. She hopes the forums will get at the reasons for under-reporting. “We can all conjecture about why someone might not report such a crime to police,” she says, “but until we get it first-hand, we’re just guessing.”